It's a new year. It is also the start of something else: campaign season. Lately, elections seem to be bringing about more unease than they used to. There is no escaping them! In reality, elections haven't changed--there has always been an election every year (even year and odd year elections). These days, though, we are experiencing campaigns in the era of social media. Since the arrival of social media, tensions around politics have heightened in ways we couldn’t have imagined a generation ago (and no, the irony of a blog post that will disseminate through social media isn’t lost on me).
When working with individuals and teams in the civic and governmental sector, social media often comes up as a sore subject. The most common complaints: trolls, assumptions, and rumors. It is not only that monitoring and correcting information takes a lot of time (which it does). It is also the self-consciousness that we may experience ourselves and in others. Reacting to social media can sometimes be a stand-in for dialog or execution.
All of this drama fiddles with emotions, begs for policy-making and happens in real-time. “Just staying out of it” doesn’t work anymore (and allows the jerks to tell the story). Politics as usual is amped up for now and the foreseeable future.
How will you handle the tension of the next election(s)? What is your relationship with social media and the content you experience there? What will you discover about yourself during hard times (or the just icky ones)? When our future selves look back, we will understand how these times shaped our spirit, commitments and institutions. Institutions like elections which are fundamental to governance. But first we go through it.
The work you do supports the public good. When you thrive, we all benefit. Please let me know if you are interested in confidential coaching and consulting to help bring forth your great potential.
Twenty-five years ago today, a remarkable speech was given. So much as happened since Hillary Clinton's speech to the 1995 UN Conference on Women in Beijing on September 5, 1995. It is important to harken back to what a moment in history it was. Read the full text of the speech to appreciate its full measure without editorial.
happy pi day
Happy Pi Day ! Pi. 3.14159265359. And so on. The number representing the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is fondly celebrated by math lovers every year on March 14 has come again. Seemingly infinite and also constant, pi inspires lots of math-y fun and the baking of pies.
A few years ago a local leader suggested the formation of a regional committee to produce ideas for intergovernmental cooperation projects (we will get to Pi here in a moment). While discussing it, the concept of ideation was landed upon as the description of what the committee will do .
What separates ideation from brainstorming is that it is structured process. There are likely a lot of definitions, and the one we landed on was project ideation, and that project ideation is
Being government and all it was time for an acronym. Project Ideation became PI, and the PI Team was formed. And then a non-governmental type read the letters P and I sandwiched next to each other and saw, oh my goodness, an actual word! Then it all clicked. The "Pi Team" was born.
I love this story. Pi as a metaphor is so relevant to the creative process and creative shared in ideation. Like Pi, creativity is infinite and ideation is a structured and known process--a constant. The story also tells about perspective--I saw an acronym, someone else saw a word, and not just any word. The perfect word for what the acronym was trying to embody-a testament to the intelligence of teams. This came about not just because of an additional person being added to the discussion but the inclusion of the outsider's voice (nongovernmental in this case). And then there was the circle. The very shape of the ideal committee. And let none of this overshadow the purpose of the team -- intergovernmental cooperation which requires all of these things: creativity, structure, diversity of perspective, and the circle way.
So Happy Pi Day. May you celebrate it as a science and an art. As the infinite and the constant. As the user of the circle and the consumer of pie. Please contact me if I may help your ideation and team intelligence to flourish.
Have you ever been asked if you “believe” in climate change? I have and it caught me off guard. Believe? Is this a theology exam? Or what about this one: do you think climate change is real? Real? Is the reality of this something I can assess? Isn’t there someone more qualified? (increasing my streak of insights from comedians to 2). As an initial reaction, this kind of question bugs me.
However, I really do appreciate the interest. So, letting go of my reactions, what do situations like this teach that can allow me bring my authentic self to conversations about important things? Thinking about what I would have liked to have been asked helps me to think about how to have important conversations.
What stands out is that a focus on my experiences with changes in climate would make a difference. "Have you experienced climate change in your life?" There I have something that I can share. “Yes, I have had experiences with changes in climate. The dog got lyme disease and a travelling suitcase brought home some hitchhiking bed bugs. Yuck! And I have noticed we get more extremely heavy rain storms, landslides and flooding...” The interest in my story allows me avoid a perceived test or having to defend a position on a topic that feels complex and difficult. It also creates space for me to ask, “How about you?” Regardless of your answer we are conversing, not declaring positions.
Sometimes direct questions in search of a "yes" or a "no" don’t serve us. They are extractive, and when we’re being extracted, we aren’t connected. Yet connection is what we need to create solutions for group problems: like invasive pests and landslides. And climate change. Connectedness leads to creativity when a conversation includes perspective taking: How about you? When we tell our own story and also listen to the perspectives of others we get into a more constructive group problem solving space. We can be much more positive and effective.
As humans, we organize our thoughts and experiences into a set of beliefs and judgments, especially about complex or important subjects. It helps us remember things and handle a lot of information. At the same time, it is our humanity that allows us to work together. Next time you find yourself being asked about your beliefs and that generates an internal dilemma, try this experiment. (1) Smile and take a breath to disarm those totalizing words (“believe”, “real”) and (2) shift to your experiences. (3) Follow up with a question about the questioner’s experience.
And when you are the questioner, and it's a situation where you want to work with someone, lead with questions about experiences and not beliefs. See if that helps to build connection, creativity and problem-solving. Let me know!
peace and accountability
For a generation, one of the most influential ideas to impact public service has been the landmark publication Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector, by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler. A rallying cry to "revolt against bureaucratic malaise" and "build something better," it has inspired many public officials seeking to promote initiative and a sense of ownership in public organizations. Costs have been reduced and programs have been reformed because of the performance management programs inspired by Reinventing Government. However, a recent column in Governing magazine outlined the unintended consequence of performance management: some public officials felt diminished by the performance management process, which shut down creativity needed to solve problems. For reinvention to deliver its high ideal, how can the technical changes such as performance management programs be built upon to allow people and groups to adapt and improve? We offer our help with this through an approach of peace and accountability. This is particularly useful when elected officials struggle with the efficiency and effectiveness of the organizations they have been tasked to lead or when staff feels politicized. This matrix shows the top level "action words" used to describe our assistance:
An approach imbued with peace and accountability doesn't avoid tough issues or assure certain outcome. It does, however, add integrity to an improvement process by building support across the spectrum of opinions on how effective workers and organizations perform. The result: increased creativity, critical thinking, and shared responsibility.
3rd monday of january
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the third Monday of January. "A day on, not a day off." The Corporation for National and Community Service serves as a resource for developing community service programs large and small. The commemoration of King's legacy occurs each year determined by the day of the month of January, not on a specific date. It has that in common with local meetings and US Thanksgiving. Reflecting on this commonality, isn't that a great way to remember the links between our gratitude and week-in, week-out opportunities to promote justice and be a force of good? Some additional quotes for "a little inspiration."
considering the other view
It is always helpful when when we consider the perspectives of others. It enhances our ability to consider a variety of viewpoints and get to better decisions. The "logic of politics / logic of administration" graphic below provides a handy visual for learners seeking to become familiar with the perspectives of elected boards and paid staff. In addition to depicting points of view, the diagram literally shows "the gray area" and who is in a situation to be in-between. From 1994, this is an oldie but a goodie.
a little inspiration
October 11 is Eleanor Roosevelt's birthday. Circle back to her quotes whenever you need a little inspiration.
Susan Hockenberry's blog of suggestions for info and updates.